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House II: The Second Story Is Weirder, but Is It Better?

Feature Presentations: Episode 51

Welcome to my column dedicated to the appreciation of physical media supplements called: Feature Presentations. The goal of this column is not to say whether a film is good or bad and worth picking up or not—I would like to highlight the discs that go the extra mile and provide film fans with enough tasty tidbits to satisfy even the hungriest of cinephiles. With all that out of the way, today’s article will focus on Arrow Video‘s release of House II: The Second Story.

The Blu-ray cover for House II

When I discussed the first House film on a past episode of Feature Presentations, I mentioned that I would be delving into the rest of this box set later. I didn’t expect diving back into this set almost a year later, yet here we are! 

Looking to emulate the success of the 1986 original, a new group of people moves into a mansion where spooky happenings are afoot. Cue the hilarity and shocks throughout the runtime.

Unlike the first film, which effectively blended horror and comedy, House II: The Second Story goes the goofier route for the lesser. While I’m always a fan of a cinematic experience taking the audience down an unusual and unexpected path, House II: The Second Story never clicked with me. Being able to walk the tightrope of horror and comedy is a delicate dance, and extremely easy to lose your balance. House II: The Second Story trips over itself with an overabundance of humor and a lack of thrills.

House II: The Second Story isn’t a bad film in the sense of enjoyment. It’s so off-the-wall, taking a “throw everything at the wall to see what sticks” approach, you have to applaud the audacity, even if only little bits remain on the wall. Those involved are working hard to entertain, and the likeability factor is on point; Royal Dano is a treat, but the silly tone is a bit much for me.

Where the disc shines, like its predecessor, is on the supplemental material side. Arrow Video includes an archive audio commentary with writer/director Ethan Wiley and producer Sean S. Cunningham. Both men discuss individual aspects of the film’s production. Wiley leads the track as he recalls memories from the set, shooting details, and entertaining asides. Cunningham is quieter, chiming in with supporting details to enhance Wiley’s comments. While the track does lapse into sporadic moments of silence, Wiley and Cunningham offer enough information that fans of the film should feel satisfied.

Bill holds out a sword and hammer.

The next feature, “It’s Getting Weirder!” is an almost hour-long, recently-filmed documentary detailing the ins and outs of House II: The Second Story, featuring Wiley, Cunningham, stars Arye Gross, Jonathan Stark, and other cast and crew members. A making-of like “It’s Getting Weirder!” is the type of feature I look for on a disc. Arrow Video wrangles many people associated with the film, and each offers their perspective in making the sequel.

As expected, Wiley leads the way in this documentary, guiding the viewer through the initial setup of the sequel. Sean S. Cunningham talks about how the film went into production. What I enjoyed most comes with effects artist Chris Walas has a large amount of the documentary dedicated to him. Walas discusses working on a low-budget/high-concept film, the love and stupidity surrounding the “caterpuppy,” and how each effect came about under such tight circumstances. 

The documentary offers additional entertaining details including: Wiley’s “let’s try this!” approach, not understanding the rules of the film, and the many bumps stuntman Kane Hodder had throughout the film’s production. I have to say that this is a hell of a documentary and probably more deserving than a film of this caliber deserves. Even if you’re not a fan of House II: The Second Story, “It’s Getting Weirder!” is an excellent documentary and worth a watch for fans of the sequel or those who enjoy glimpses behind-the-scenes of a film’s production.

Arrow Video also includes the original electronic press kit (EPK) from the film’s initial release. As expected, with a feature like this, the EPK works to sell the film for its theatrical run. The electronic press kit includes behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with co-star John Ratzenberger, absent from “It’s Getting Weirder!” and Royal Dano, who passed in 1994.

Rounding out the disc, Arrow Video includes a stills gallery—featuring images from the finished film, behind-the-scenes photos, and marketing shots. The disc closes with the film’s theatrical trailer and a television spot.

A close-up look at the caterpuppy.

And there you have it! While House II: The Second Story doesn’t work for me, its silly nature makes the film hard to hate. And while the sequel struggles to get out of the shadow of its far superior successor, its physical media release helps it stand out. Featuring a fine-enough audio commentary track and a stellar documentary, the Arrow Video release of House II: The Second Story is the edition you want to have on your shelf. It’s scary how good a subpar film like this got treated. Releases like this are why I appreciate physical media.

Written by Robert Chipman

Robert is a struggling screenwriter who enjoys music, writing, and all forms of cinema. His musical tastes span a wide array, but mainly within the hip-hop genre. He considers Ghostbusters the best film of all time and has a weird obsession with Stephen Dorff. Make of that what you will. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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  1. I got this entire collection based on my nostalgia for the first movie, and your awesome review of the Arrow Video release. I had never seen the sequels and it was fun watching them, although none of them hold a candle to the original. My favorite moments of this movie featured John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin from Cheers) in a very funny role as an electrician / adventurer. Seriously, he is hilarious in this movie and it’s worth watching for his performance alone. I was happy to see this post and am excited to see you tackle the other House movies in this box set!

    • House II is much sillier and works for some and might be a bit too goofy for others (myself included), though I agree with you that John Ratzenberger is the highlight of the film. None of the sequels touch the original, but what I like is that the tone of each film is wildly different than the last, so they consistently surprise you in the genres they take. House III and House IV are on their way and I appreciate you following the column!

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